Sophomore DL #89 Jacob MatuskaSpent his freshman season of 2013 on the scout team and now must contend with a glut of new challengers up front. Primarily a tight end in high school, Matuska was new to the 3-4 defensive end position last season and he likewise ranks as a neophyte in his current role as a 4-3 tackle. His best football lies ahead, but fans aren't likely to see it this season barring a breakout effort in August camp.
Realistic Ceiling: Contributions to the defensive interior on game day(s).
Other side of the coin: A second season on the scout team
Senior RB #33 Cam McDanielThe confident McDaniel ranks as the only proven member of a three-headed monster at running back, though he's arguably the lone member of the trio to show his ceiling as a player. The senior is a good bet to start the season opener against Rice and a sure-fire, season-long contributor in good health, but most would wager that either sophomore Tarean Folston or redshirt-freshman Greg Bryant, or both, move ahead of McDaniel over the course of the 2014 campaign.
It's likewise a safe bet that McDaniel will be consistent enough to lead Notre Dame in rushing in at least one game each month -- that's not likely to be the case for both of his competitors.
Realistic Ceiling: Team rushing leader.
Other side of the coin: Fewer than 100 carries and the definitive No. 3 behind Bryant and Folston.
Sophomore OL #68 Mike McGlincheyThe redshirt-freshman enters camp in a unique position: battling himself for the starting right tackle role. That is, if McGlinchey proves to be one of the five best offensive lineman -- and for that to be the case, he has to be better than a host of guard and guard/tackle candidates -- the starting RT job is likely his. If any one among the Steven Elmer, Matt Hegarty, Conor Hanratty (or true frosh Quenton Nelson?) grouping proves more valuable, McGlinchey is headed for rotation/backup duties, and the Irish offensive front will adjust accordingly (the chief move involving Elmer at right tackle rather than left guard).
Realistic Ceiling: Starting right tackle for 13 weeks. Failing that, a regular member of a three-man tackle rotation/part-time starter.
Other side of the coin: Backup to Elmer at RT -- and that wouldn't signify a great chance at a starting RT job next season for McGlinchey, either.
Sophomore OL #62 Colin McGovernImproved enough between the 2013 season and spring ball that head coach Brian Kelly offered his name as the most surprising player of the 15-practice session, albeit relative to his scout team slotting during all of 2013. McGovern will be a guard this season and likely for the duration of his career -- competition is fierce at the position for 2014.
Realistic Ceiling: Backup guard duties and his first game action at some point this season.
Other side of the coin: Plays most of the season on the scout team with varsity guards Elmer, Hanratty, Hegarty, Lombard, and Nelson holding down the fort. (Nelson could be a tackle as well.)
Freshman DT #96 Pete MokwuahThe penultimate addition to Notre Dame's 2014 recruiting class has a tough road to ho in search of rookie year playing time, but Mokwuah was recruited to help stabilize future rotations on the defensive front (as are most incoming defensive linemen), not to stand out from the outset. If Mokwuah plays in 2014, he's either much more game-ready than the recruiting services (or former Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco) initially believed, or something went wrong up front in South Bend.
Realistic Ceiling: Surprises and earns playing time on a defensive line that, at present, appears to need youngsters to step to the fore.
Other side of the coin: A redshirt-season, which is probably best for his overall development in the program.